Date: 14 Dec 1991
Place: Coventry, West Midlands
Nicola Payne vanished on 14 December 1991 in Wood End whilst walking from her home to her parent's house.
She had lived in Winston Avenue and had a baby-son and was looking forward to settling down with her boyfriend in a new house. She had had 40p in her pocket when she had left.
On the day she vanished she had set out to walk from her boyfriend’s house in Winston Avenue, Henley Green, leaving at 12.10pm, for her parent's house in Woodway Close nearby, taking a short cut across an area of land known as Black Pad which should have taken her ten minutes, but she never arrived. Although she would have made the journey in daylight, the area was foggy at the time.
She had been planning to collect clothes for her young son who was back with her boyfriend.
The police said that they had few clues to assist them but did say that they knew that she had walked along Winston Avenue and gone into the waste ground known as Black Pad but that she never emerged from it.
After she was reported missing, the police used police teams, sniffer dogs, and police helicopters to search the parkland, which was in thick fog, but failed to find her.
Shortly after she disappeared, Nicola Payne's family started to get calls from a man who claimed to know where Nicola Payne was. In one call he said, 'This girl, I saw her being carried by a man at the side of the road. He was carrying either a drunken person or it might have been worse, but he did answer that description. This chap he had one of those big coats on. That's all I can say, I think he had a moustache'.
In 1996 the police dug up the garden of a property in Woodway Lane but found nothing.
In the summer of 2001, the police dredged part of the Oxford Canal, in Ansty looking for her but again found nothing.
In November 2007, the police arrested a 37-year old man from Derbyshire on suspicion of Nicola Payne's abduction and murder, but no charges were made, and he was released from bail in March 2008.
In June 2008 the police excavated the garden of a house in Winston Avenue, Henley Green, but nothing was found.
In June 2012 the police excavated parkland at Courthouse Green following a tip but found nothing. That same month a 74-year-old and 45-year-old man were arrested but later released without charge. The police noted that they considered charging the 45-year-old man with wasting police time but decided not to.
In February 2015 the police searched Hales Industrial Estate off Rowley's Green Lane but found nothing.
Then in October 2015, two men, a man and his brother-in-law, were tried for her murder but were found not guilty after a six-week trial. the man had initially been arrested three days after Nicola Payne vanished after it was alleged that he had asked a friend to give him an alibi.
It was said that three hairs belonging to Nicola Payne were found in a tent that had belonged to the man and that the hairs were 900 million times more likely to have come from Nicola Payne than someone that she was not related to. The hairs were found in a tent, along with a hair from one of the two men, that was found near a river about five days after Nicola Payne went missing. At the trial, the prosecution said that instructions for the tent were later found in the man's Ford Capri car when it was searched in December 1991.
It was heard that the tent and a hair band had been recently reviewed for fresh forensic evidence which had resulted in the finds and the decision to charge the two men.
The prosecution said that Nicola Payne had left her boyfriend’s house and started to cross the area known as Black Pad where she was abducted and then murdered.
The prosecution said that the man would have been 27-years-old at the time and had owned a distinctive blue Ford Capri fitted with alloy wheels and a body kit. One witness said that they remembered seeing the man and his brother-in-law near a river on 14 December 1991 standing by what they thought was a full bin bag.
Another witness, a dog walker, said that they remembered hearing Nicola Payne scream as was walking around the Black Pad and shortly after he had seen a figure hiding in a bush near a school.
The prosecution stated that at the time the man and the brother-in-law had been very close and had operated as a team and that the combination of the finding of the hairs in the tent, the tent instructions in the man's car, and the fact that the man had asked for an alibi and had been seen in the area on the day that Nicola Payne vanished, suggested that they were likely suspects.
It was also said that the man had deliberately delayed his attendance at two identity parades, one in 1991 and another in 1992.
However, during the trial, the man said that the case against him was absolutely absurd.
His brother-in-law said that he was innocent and noted that in 1992 a well-built policeman had threatened to 'do' him during questioning, and that later in the year he had been bundled into a van blindfolded and questioned over Nicola Payne's disappearance by a group of men.
During the trial the defence had said that the handling of the exhibits at Coventry police station in the early 1990's was shambolic, noting that the handling of the tent in particular made the forensic analysis of it worthless back then and even more worthless in 2015.
The trial lasted five weeks and at the end of it the jury retired for about eight hours before returning a not guilty verdict against the men.
After the trial, a woman, thought to have been the sister of the man tried, said that the two men had suffered unfounded innuendo for almost 24 years over the allegations.
In February 2017 the police started digging in Coombe Country Park with digging machinery. In particular they were searching a drainage ditch that ran from Coombe Abbey road towards the lake. Their search was made after they said that a person who they described as a credible witness came forward saying that they had seen two men in the wooded area at Coombe Abbey between the fisheries car park and the A46 flyover on 14 December 1991. They said that the new witness said that the two men spoke to him in the car park and the police said that they thought that what they said was linked to Nicola Payne's disappearance on that day. The police noted that the witness had not come forward before because up until that time he had not connected the incident with the disappearance of Nicola Payne, in part due to the Black Pad where Nicola Payne was last seen being a good distance from Coombe Country Park, but that over the previous 18 months, during which certain other details regarding the case following the trail had been made public, he had put the pieces together and come to the conclusion that what the men had said at that time was significant and so informed the police.
In March 2018 police divers also searched the fishing lake at Coombe Country Park but found nothing.
In February 2020 the police searched a stretch of canal near to the Armada boat yard outside of Rugby.
A number of other searches have also been made.
It was noted that Nicola Payne went missing at about the same time as Barbara Finn, who was also from Coventry and whose case is also still unsolved. However, it was noted that their lifestyles were completely separate and that their cases were not connected.
Nicola Payne was described as being white, 5ft 2in tall, of medium build, with dark brown, shoulder length hair and with brown eyes.